Chelsea playmaker Juan Mata will prove his status as one of the Premier League's best players despite being a peripheral figure at Stamford Bridge so far this season, according to defensive linchpin Branislav Ivanovic.
Mata has made just one appearance in four matches for Chelsea so far this season, with Jose Mourinho preferring to start summer signings Kevin de Bruyne and Andre Schurrle in a position packed with depth in West London.
Mourinho has insisted that Mata remains integral to his plans this season and refused interest from Manchester United in his signature, declaring that the Spaniard's lack of first-team action is primarily down to injury and a slow recovery from Confederations Cup duty.
Ivanovic has weighed in by stating that he believes Mata deserves to be ranked among the Premier League's elite operators due to his sublime touch, urging the attacking midfielder to work hard and prove his worth to Mourinho in the next few weeks.
He told ESPN: "He's a player who was one of the best in the last two years. He came back late from the summer, but he's had the time to work now. He's a guy who is really important for us and for the team.
"It's important for him to train hard, keep going and use every chance. I always said that, for me, Mata is one of the best quality players in the league. He has a brilliant touch, and he's a brilliant guy."
The 25-year-old won Chelsea's player of the year award in each of his first two seasons at Stamford Bridge, scoring 32 times in 119 appearances for the Europa League holders.